I don’t know about you, but I am obsessed with my Amazon Wish List, especially during this time of year. I am constantly checking it, adding new things, and taking away items I no longer want. Did you know that you can even “rank” or prioritize the items you have on your Wish List? You can select which things are “high priority” and which things are “low priority.” It’s like my Grown Up Christmas List, but unlike the popular song by Amy Grant, it is not filled with things like world peace and healing and love. It is mostly filled with books.
In her book, Accidental Saints, Nadia Bolz-Weber writes,
“…maybe we should start making Advent lists–they’d be like Christmas lists, but instead of listing things we want Santa to bring us, we could write down things we want Christ to break in and take from us” (59).
When I first read this way back in early October, I thought, What a great idea! I should totally do that when Advent gets here! I even put it in my calendar and everything. But, just like you’d expect, I got caught up in the busyness and rush of the holiday season, and I forgot all about my Advent List. I put more time and effort into my Amazon Wish List than I did into my Advent hopes and longings. It wasn’t until a friend shared a video of Pastor Bolz-Weber discussing this very same thing that I remembered my own desire to create an Advent List.
The idea of an Advent List comes from one of the first lectionary readings during the season of Advent. In Matthew 24:36-44, Jesus talks about the Son of Man coming like a thief in the night: no one expects it and no one knows when it will happen. We must always be prepared and ready for the coming of Christ.
Now, this may seem like a strange text for Advent; isn’t this the time of year when we are supposed to be talking about angels and shepherds and pregnant women? But I think it perfectly depicts what happens during the season of Advent: Christ breaks in on our busyness and our mania and our self-obsession, and reminds us what this season is really about. Are we going to be ready for him?
Right now, I am ready for Christ. As many have comically depicted on social media, 2016 has often seemed like an out-of-control dumpster fire. Objectively speaking, this year may not have been better or worse than any other year. However, over the past few months, I have often felt like I am in the middle of a bad dream and I am ready to wake up and for it to all be over.
When I see pictures of what is happening in Aleppo or read stories about hate crimes being committed or listen to news pundits talk about our politically divided country, sometimes my only prayer is, “Come, Lord Jesus.” This year especially, I have deeply resonated with the words of my favorite Advent carol, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”:
O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
I’m ready for Christ to break into our world that seems to be filled with so much gloom and darkness and death. I’m ready for him to bring light and life and healing. Come, Lord Jesus, come.
But this year, I am also ready for Christ to come in and upset my own life. I am ready for him to rip out everything in me that is not of him. I am ready for him to steal away my anger and my pride and my greed and my selfishness. I am throwing wide the doors of my heart and letting him take away my fears, frustrations, negativity, and pettiness. I am too often critical or judgmental or pessimistic. I get caught up in my own life and neglect those around me. I have put my hope in earthly political systems rather than in the everlasting Kingdom of God. I need Christ to come in and ransack my world, only to put it back together again in his own image.
Lord, remove my heart of stone and fill me instead with the Advent promises of hope, peace, joy, and love. This is my Advent List and my Advent prayer.
If I believe in a Savior that can restore the brokenness and redeem the chaos of our world, I can believe in a Savior that is willing and able to do that in my own life. Now the only question is: Am I willing to let him do this for me? Am I ready for Christ?
Come, Lord Jesus, come.